Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Study of Human Emotion

Somewhere in the comments below, someone asked if we really deal with this much asshattery every day, or is this blog just an overexaggeration?

Well, let me tell you now...

Over the course of just a few days:

1.)  Non-client walks in my door at 11:59 am, just as half of my staff was headed to lunch.  They'd had a very busy morning taking care of our good clients and deserved a break.  They are SUCH hardworking people.   Non-client proceeds to tell my staff that her dog had been sick for a few days and she needed to be seen.  No problem - exam fee is $xx.   Non-client informs my staff that she thought it was just ridiculous that she had to pay for an exam....   um, ok?  Whatever.  Then she informs my staff that I would see her right then because she was an excellent client (really?  that's why you're a non-client?) and that she would be paying me on the 1st.  (we all know that code)  Staff informs her that we had an available appt at 3:45 pm and would be more than happy to see her then.   Non-client throws a fit but eventually agrees to the appt time.

Fast forward to 3:45 pm.  Non-client no-shows for the exam.  Doesn't call, just doesn't show up.  No problem, I've been doing this enough years to know that you never really put these into the schedule cause, well, these are usually crazy people.

So I put it out of my mind and as soon as I'm done with my last appt, I roll out and head home.  My staff calls me almost immediately, letting me know that Non-client called at 4:59 pm with a message for me:

"You tell that doctor that I WILL be back at 8 am in the morning and I WILL not have any money and she WILL treat my dog and will wait for payment on the 1st!"

Yeah.  OK.  I was ready for her the next morning, but she no-showed again.  Sigh.  I didn't even get to unload on her dumb ass.  But it did get my hackles up, especially since she felt that verbally abusing my hardworking awesome staff was somehow acceptable.

2.)  Client who had been in twice in the last 5 years, calls at noon just as my hard working staff is trying to get lunch.  Again.  EMERGENCY!  My dog was attacked... 2 days ago!!!  And needs to be seen NOW!!!  Well, OK...  this really could be real, so come on down....

Poor, old decrepit sweet Lab, several infected bite wound all over his face and neck.  Stiff as hell and can barely walk.  Not on any pain meds, not current on any vaccines, and is a mess.  I ask owner if she's considered providing some basic care for this dog?  Her answer:  Nah, he's not in any pain.

Um.  OK.

So we do an exam, and provide her with an estimate for treatment for his wounds as well as some recommendations for care going forward.

Her answer:  WHAT?  I don't have any MONEY!  My neighbor's dog did this so I'm gonna leave my dog with YOU while I go back home and ask him to pay the bill!


I told her that's fine, and the charge for leaving her dog with me would be $xx.  (Having been down the abandonment road and the no payment road before, there was no way I was doing it for free)

She didn't like that answer.  She stormed out, got into her CADILLAC and drove away.

3.)  SAME DAY:  Owner comes in with her dog, specifically for a behavior issue, saying the dog is showing aggression towards HER.

(Side note:  male intact white German Shepherd.  Do I need to say more?)

I walk in the room, he starts eyeing me and growling at me.  On goes the muzzle.  We do the exam, talk about the findings and I make recommendations, including one for a TRAINER, and for NEUTERING this beast.

Next day, owner calls, SCREAMING at my staff, about how we obviously didn't know what we were doing because we MUZZLED her dog!!!  That was, apparently, cruel and unusual punishment.

(can I say that I might laugh if, in the future, I hear that he attacked her and ate her body?)

4.)  Same week:  Non-client calls and says he wants Tramadol for his dog.  Specifically.  Then tells me he doesn't want "all those tests" and that the dog is current at another vet's office.  Huh?  OK.  So I am automatically suspicious, and I tell staff to call the client and tell him I will require previous vet records for the exam and any medications dispensed.  Client becomes IRATE over this, saying it was a HASSLE now and that he just won't be back.   GOOD, YOU FREAKING DRUG SEEKER!!! 

I currently have a friend and colleague who is getting blasted online because she wasn't available when her clinic was closed for a client who let her own dog suffer for too long.   My friend was taking care of her children, (you know, those silly things like feeding and educating them) and this client insisted she drop what she was doing and serve the client's needs immediately.   Even though there is a referral hospital nearby - open when her clinic is closed.  She had options.  But she'd rather blast a good person, a mommy and a great vet, publicly, than take responsibility for her own actions.

I'm starting to feel like I need drugs myself just to deal with this DAILY crap.

We don't make this up, and this is the stuff that causes Burnout and Compassion Fatigue.  It's very sad, but I don't know many vets who have been doing this for 20 years, who can honestly say they love it any more.  It's just a job.  And a sucky one at that.


  1. I am so sorry to read that you have to deal with people like this. I wonder if they take that kind of attitude at every establishment they visit for services (for example, auto mechanic, appliance repair, dentist, human doctor). I would never dream of treating a veterinarian that way.

    1. Joe, you are the kind of person who makes it worth our time. Trust me when I say that we vets go out of our way to make sure we take care of clients like you. We are just like anybody else - many of us are simple small business owners with families and lives - and would like to be part of our communities, etc. I do believe people like this go around treating others this way - they are bullies who have gotten away with it for too long. Thank you for saying you'd never treat your vet that way. Your vet loves you for it.

  2. We get these same sort of people coming into the pet ER. Some places now have actually started collecting a deposit (gasp !) before starting diagnostics or treatment.

    BTW, the grocer/gas station/landlord/etc have never given me a discount or freebies because I love & care for animals.

  3. I just started working at a veterinary clinic a little over a month ago and I can't believe how many people like this I have already had to deal with. It is like the clients expect us to work for free and at their convenience just because we are helping poor, innocent animals. Not even mentioning the fact that when clinics closed there are still other clinics available. I'm hoping to attend vet school in 2 years, so I guess it'll be good exposure to what the veterinarian life will be like.

  4. I've encountered just about all of those situations listed above.

    The ones you left out are the ones where you get called at 1:30am because three days ago X happened and the dog just hasn't been right since.

    I'm still at a loss as to how it is a problem suddenly at 1:30am, but it wasn't a problem at any other point in time? And then because they let the problem go from a mild case of 'oh that stinks, here, let's fix it', to "OMG HOW IS HE STILL ALIVE?", and the bill is correspondingly higher, it becomes our fault or problem to fix, or that we have to extend them credit.

    Ungh. I could go on! I've been practicing now for 7 years, and I think I'm finally hitting the stage of compassion fatigue that I may need to start actually seeing a therapist for. Of course, I wouldn't know the first thing to talk about with them, but I've been considering it for some time, and my husband is urging me to find someone to talk to because of my home behavior.

    I had someone call a few weeks back who wanted me to euthanize a whole litter of day old puppies because he didn't want them. He didn't want to spay his dog. He just didn't want any of her puppies. And while I'm almost certain that they probably met a horrible end, (we gave him several numbers of several people who would foster the whole litter for him), I told him I would not do it. As I told the technicians working with me that day, "My soul cannot bear that much.".

    I sometimes comment on this blog, usually venting in the above manner. But I do want to say thank you to all who write it. It's (almost) reassuring that I know I'm not alone. Oh sure, my co-workers (both my bosses) and I commiserate too about our clients, but it is tempting to write it off as JUST our location or JUST our clients. The fact that it is JUST PEOPLE and that more than just myself has to deal with the bullsh*t of people who ... yeah, I'm about to go off on another venting tangent.

    So. Thank you. Keep posting. It isn't that misery loves company, but the sharing actually does help. At least help me feel better about my own lot in life!

    1. K, I cannot express how much it breaks my heart to read that yet another of my colleagues is suffering in this manner. It IS a problem across the nation, partly I believe because of our current entitlement environment in this country. The burnout is bad; mine started a few years back, too... right about 5-6 years. Take care of yourself; get away from work, don't think about it when you get home, focus on your family. And exercise. Reach out to us if we can help. And always, always remember... this job is never your life; IT IS JUST A JOB. Please shoot us a letter if you need to chat.

    2. Thank you. It's so silly sometimes to think that a 'nameless faceless' person giving us encouragement can help, but it does.

      It's so nice when we have a good client come in too, sometimes just one nice client in a week who appreciates you can erase the bad, at least for a little while.

    3. All too often we focus on the bad clients. I had an eye opening moment a few weeks ago when I found myself sitting at my desk fuming about some jerk who used a 20 minute conversation with me to help him justify putting his cat down for a treatable illness (you know those calls where you give them reasonable option after reasonable option and they shoot them all down for stupid or lazy reasons so that they can come to the "inevitable conclusion that they can't let the poor thing suffer anymore when there's nothing to be done"? Yeah, those.

      I texted a friend to vent and she asked how the rest of my day went and I said "well it wasn't too bad otherwise. In fact my last appointment was this lovely old couple who told me they were so happy to have found such a great vet for their dog. They're always nice and I love to see them". Then I wondered why I was spending so much time thinking about the one bad person I spoke to. Since then I've been trying to take a few minutes to really appreciate the good things I do, the animals I help, and the great clients I see. Negativity can pull you down so easily if you don't.

      That said, there is also definitely a point where talking to a professional could really help. I've watched multiple friends struggle with depression (and have myself). If you feel you've reached it, go for it. Life's too short to be unhappy

  5. Wow -- knowing how demanding, unreasonable and entitled people can be at the pharmacy counter, I never thought about how this would naturally translate to their behavior with their pets. It's the same everywhere -- people showing up with a handful of prescription 5 minutes before pharmacy closing (prescriptions they were given 2 weeks ago and need NOW) --- people showing up at Urgent Care 5 minutes before closing with a rash they've had for 3 weeks.... and always shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that there's going to be a charge involved for the service.

  6. Then you have to be careful about taking the time for yourself to avoid burnout. Turns out when you try, you find someone is attacking your professional and personal character. Accusing you of being selfish, greedy and questioning your compassion because you weren't available (it doesn't matter that you had arranged 3 alternative options). Then you get to watch your community respond and further question what kind of person (or perhaps monster) you are. Yeah, that's good for your compassion fatigue.

    1. I hear you, my crazy goat lady friend. :) At least we have this blog where we can let it all out and maybe, just maybe, ONE person who is an asswipe, will read it and change. OK probably not, but I can dream. :)

    2. F#*^ whoever questions your compassion & commitment when you take the time to care for yourself. I *need* you guys to help me care for (and care about) my dogs (during regular business hours, of course). You need to do what you need to do to stay "healthy" for those who truly do appreciate you. Please.
      The self-entitlement extends to human medicine as well. That's why I switched to a specialty where interaction is kept to a minimum.

    3. I'm "just a tech" and even I get grief from clients about taking time off for myself. One of our clients (who is very sweet if a little off her rocker) had a bit of fit when she was told that I will be on vacation for ONE WHOLE WEEK in October, which just so happens to coincide with the week she wanted to bring her cat in for dentistry. Never mind that our surgical staff is awesome all around, she wanted me for her cat, and now she has to reschedule a month ahead of time. It is just crazy talk that I would want to take time off from playing with all the cute kitties (because that is an accurate description of my job, right?), after all I just took a vacation 14 MONTHS ago!
      I love our clients on a whole, and it is rare we get one as abusive as described in the post above, but sometimes even the nicest people are blind to how selfish they are.

  7. This reminds me of a conversation I had not long ago. A guy came in to donate items to our shelter as he said his cat died. As I was offering my condolences, he revised his story to say the cat hadn't actually died, but that his vet "made" him sign his cat over. A middle-aged male cat with a history of uti's and now a blockage. As he refused to pay for necessary care and said he was just going to take him home, the vet took pity on this poor cat. I could just see the events unfolding in the vet's office as he spoke and was damn near speechless.

    I asked him why he thought the vet should take financial responsibility for his cat and if he went to the doctor, would he have asked for free medical care? With a straight face, he said that if his son got sick, he would take him to the ER so they would have to treat him for free and the vet should do the same for his cat. I said, no, taxpayers like me actually would be paying for his son's treatment and that no such safety net existed for animals because as pet owners we are expected to care for our own. I politely made my point and hope some of it sank in so if there is a next vet they won't have to deal with the same attitude.

    I appreciate and respect my vet. Her expertise and hard work have improved the life of my animals and I'm grateful for it. I don't expect that to come for free and a lot of other good clients out there don't either. Hope that helps balance the scale a bit because to lose good professionals to compassion fatigue is saddening to say the least.

  8. Just tell azzhat clients to call your mortgage company or student loan lender and verify that this act of kindness will suffice for this months payment.............

    But mostly to everyone in burnoutville believe u can detest the azzhats, the thieves, the time bandits and the folks who think quality is overrated(!) AND still love your job. It took me a long time to realize that 90% of the clients are patient and appreciative and by fixating on the CHUDS I was missing out on the joy of helping good people and animals with their problems. People with no funds are obviously a nonstarter but people with limited funds can be helped with targeted diagnostics and treatment (protect yourself always document that you recommended and they declined plan A before moving to plan B). Clients realize we could all be MDs, pharmacists or engineers; we are DVMs BECAUSE we love animals but we can't work for free, we don't want to be laughed at when your animal bites us and occasionally we will have to give you news you really don't want to hear.

  9. Reading some of these posts and I'm starting to freak out just a bit. I just started vet school in August. I have worked in clinics and seen plenty of neglect, unreasonable clients and shifty characters. But, I like to think that the good ones make up for it. Your last few comments however, " It's very sad, but I don't know many vets who have been doing this for 20 years, who can honestly say they love it any more. It's just a job. And a sucky one at that," makes me really, really sad. School is hard, the debt-load is terrifying and after reading a lot of these blog posts....I really hope I have the personality to deal with it all.

  10. Yeah but, drug seeking for Tramadol??? Why not troll for Ibuprofen while you're at it.

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